Police chief writes letter to parents of sons involved in Townline Hill conflict

Bob Rich warns families that their children's lives are in danger

Police were on scene in October 2014 to investigate the murder of Harwin Baringh

A bluntly worded letter from Abbotsford’s police chief has been distributed to the parents of men involved in the Townline Hill gang conflict, warning that their sons are in “critical danger.”

Abbotsford Police spokesman Const. Ian MacDonald said the letter signed by Chief Bob Rich has been hand-delivered by officers in the last couple of weeks to “17 or 18” homes in Abbotsford.

The Townline Hill conflict – named for the area in which most of the dispute has been taking place – began about two years ago and involves two groups of young men, primarily of South Asian descent, battling over drug turf.

Rich’s letter states that the conflict has resulted in numerous shootings and five murders, including the deaths of 18-year-old Harwin Baringh (in photo below) in October 2014 and Ping Shun Ao, 74, an innocent bystander who was killed in September 2015 by a stray bullet intended for his neighbour.

MacDonald said he would not detail the other three murders referenced in the letter, but they occurred “in and outside” Abbotsford.

He would not confirm whether these include the drive-by shooting that occurred on March 10 of this year at a home on Hawthorne Avenue – resulting in the death of a 22-year-old man – or the fatal shooting on Aug. 17 of Gurdev (Dave) Hair on Crown Court.

“Members of these gangs are trying to kill each other,” Rich states in his letter.

“Your son’s life is in critical danger. If he stays involved in gangs, he is at serious risk of being killed.”

The letter also indicates that the gang members are “fighting over who gets to sell illegal drugs in Abbotsford.”

“The drugs they are selling are killing many other people in Abbotsford because the people that use these drugs are dying from overdoses.”

MacDonald said there’s no doubt that some of these drugs being sold can be linked to the current fentanyl crisis.

He said the substances are either being sold as fentanyl or are sold as other drugs that contain fentanyl, often unbeknownst to the buyer.

Rich’s letter also states that one of the gang leaders was recently arrested, although no name is mentioned.

Gavinder (Gavin) Grewal, 29, was previously identified by Rich as the leader of one of the two gangs battling for drug turf. He was charged in June of this year with manslaughter in relation to the 2010 shooting death of Mandy Johnson on Polar Avenue in Abbotsford.

Rich’s letter concludes by providing an email address and phone number for parents to call.

“We want to help and we want the violence to stop,” it states.

MacDonald said the distribution of the letter serves three purposes – to warn parents, to offer assistance, and to “effect change and improve public safety.”

“The letter is an earnest attempt to change the direction of the conflict and the lives of those involved,” he said.

MacDonald said some of the parents receiving the letter have been surprised to find out about their sons’ involvement in the Townline Hill conflict, while others didn’t realize the extent or seriousness of it.

He said although the violence has recently abated, it is always a threat as the illegal gang-related activity continues.

MacDonald said police are continuing to dedicate resources to the issue, including arresting and charging people for drugs and weapons, installing video surveillance cameras in the area, and suppressing situations before they escalate.

Anyone with information or requesting support is asked to call the APD at 604-859-5225 or their gang tip line at 604-864-4777, email gangbusters@abbypd.ca, text abbypd (222973) or call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.